Thought I would go ahead and give you the bad news first. Today was my third horse trial with Caesar; we went baby beginner novice at Full Moon. And. We. Got. Eliminated. Poo-poo. POOO! Suffice it to say that the honeymoon is over. When we started jumping for real in March, Caesar was happy to book me around single fences, stadium courses, and xc courses with kindness and ease. Much of my job relied on sitting up and letting him do his job. I do not jump him assertively; if anything, I defer to him. Bad idea. Though he is a fabulous jumper, and in his former career jumped up to 3'9" (and higher at times) with nary a stop, he is still a horse. That means he needs me to, well, RIDE HIM!
To tell the whole story, I need to rewind a week. We had two great xc schools at Loch Moy and Tranquility, and on Monday a great dressage workout. Tuesday was a bit icky on the flat, and then Wednesday and Thursday were just dreadful. I had jump lessons both days, and I was pulling and he was racing. We had two stops each day, and these were dirty stops, at least for Caesar, i.e., I tumbled onto his neck on one. Ewww. My trainer was quite upset at me for pulling and not trusting and...the list goes on. I was feeling pretty crappy Thursday night and made a plan to restore some trust between Caesar and me on Friday. With Megan's help, we first did some flatwork (really where the problems begin; I have been struggling with getting him straight and turning properly on the flat) then moved into pole work. Once he was trotting quietly and in a forward, straight manner over poles, we moved to a simple gymnastic. We built it up and he was great each time. Then we jumped some fences singly and then a few lines. AMAZING! He was not rushing and I was sitting up and not pulling. We had a similar workout on Saturday so I felt pretty ready for today. Although I have to admit that I still had some major anxiety about it all. Dressage was not very pretty, but there were slight improvements upon our last test (I didn't even get my score sheet; I had enough to think about with xc). Stadium was awesome; he was forward and willing, and I did a good job of balancing him.
However, he did knock a rail, make that three, in the warm-up and the ring and the xc warm up; they didn't fall. Knocking one 2' rail once is no big deal, but then again and again. Not like him. I was feeling a little wary as we waited to start xc. He just didn't feel like himself--sluggish in dressage and knocking rails and overly preoccupied with his trailer buddy. Ugh. The first xc fence was bad as I didn't get my line correct, but the second was worse. He seemed to lock onto it, but about 5 strides out, he slowed down and looked at it. Then I looked at it. Did I urge him forward and keep a supporting leg? Not really. Actually, I tilted my body forward (bad idea, right?) So one stride out, he stopped and sort of stumbled. I was already way too forward and I fell on his neck then on his side. It took me about 10 seconds to fall. I was holding on and really trying to get back up, like an awkward sloth, (he was taking tiny walk steps...really, he is a good boy), but in the end, I just gave up and stumbled to the ground. ACK! I was so pissed. I hit him a few times, probably not very fair, and cursed several times. Megan thought they might let me go on since I hadn't exactly fallen, so I got back on ( Caesar, meanwhile was apologizing by being a total gentleman). I wasn't allowed to continue so we went back to the warm-up and jumped a few fences. I was ticked and a very, very determined to get him over the fences. And we jumped well. I was confident and assertive. Hmmmm. Imagine that.
Of course, I was upset, not least because I worry I am messing up my horse. He is not a stopper, but I have now created an issue for us to conquer. But as Abby reminded me this week, in the words of Jimmy Wofford, you have to ride the horse you have. The horse I have right now is a little unsure of me and worries when I pitch forward and pull at his face; he isn't as confident jumping as he was and needs an assertive ride. I have to start riding with a crop and start putting my leg on and keeping it on. Today didn't scare me; if anything, the experience was educational--I was frustrated but determined to fix the problem. So that is good; better to wound your pride than your confidence. I think we can figure this out, but it will take stepping back. This week we need to do some gymnastics and "easy" jumps to build confidence. Tomorrow, Caesar gets the day off, but Tuesday we are going to go on a solo trail ride, something he doesn't love (but that we should do more). I am hoping the ride will help him trust me. Then, if it goes well, we will finish with some xc fences. We are doing the pipe opener at Full Moon on Saturday; it will be good to attempt the same xc course again. I was quite upset not to be able to ride it; I have such a good plan (complete with jump to jump photos)! Oh well. These things happen. And really, we had a fantastic start to our competition season with ribbons and great rides. Beginner's luck perhaps. Now comes the real riding--solving problems, albeit the fact that I have created them.
I have to be patient with Caesar (his near sainthood over fences has caused me to have a low tolerance for bad jump schools)and with myself. And I have to have fun and not worry so much about the problems. Getting overwhelmed helps no one. I feel ready to make some changes and become the rider I need to be. That feels good :)
2 hours ago